The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India, Pak shake hands on more talks

New Delhi, June 28: India and Pakistan ended their first major interaction in six years today with a “please-all” statement, but failed to make progress on the contentious issue of Kashmir other than stressing a “negotiated final settlement”.

The two sides could not agree on any new confidence-building measures, apart from those that were already known, at the two-day foreign secretary-level talks.

“The foreign secretaries reiterated the hope that the dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir,” a joint statement after the talks between Shashank and Riaz Khokar said.

It added that the two sides agreed to “continue the sustained and serious dialogue to find a peaceful negotiated final settlement” on Kashmir.

This was perhaps the only development as the Lahore Declaration, from which much of the joint statement was borrowed, only talked about “intensifying” interaction, but not of a “negotiated final settlement”.

Despite the public front of the “talks being constructive, substantive and forward looking”, Pakistan stressed once again that Kashmiris would have to be included in the process.

Although the Indian proposal for a peace and tranquillity treaty was being considered by Pakistan, there are indications of Islamabad’s reluctance to accept it. Pakistani sources argued that such a treaty would only give more legitimacy to the Line of Control which was not an agreed boundary.

For the moment, the aim was to engage with each other. Many proposals were said to be under consideration, but progress, if at all, would perhaps be possible only when the two foreign ministers, K. Natwar Singh and Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, meet in Islamabad in August.

Khokar, who later met the Indian leadership, including the Prime Minister, was given a message by Manmohan Singh for President Pervez Musharraf.

The two sides would immediately restore full staff strength at their respective high commissions and agreed “in principle” to reopen the consulates in Mumbai and Karachi. All fishermen in each other’s custody would be released immediately.

There was no agreement on the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad or on the rail link between Khokrapar and Munabao.

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